It comes down to the last shot at Boston
Al Horford's step-back 20-foot jumper at the buzzer gave Boston a come-from-behind, 97-96 victory over the Trail Blazers Sunday at TD Garden.
Portland had taken a 96-95 lead on a three-point play by Damian Lillard with 7.2 seconds to go.
Horford collected 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists for the injury-ridden Celtics (39-15), who rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit.
"They had the ball last," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "It was a game that could have gone either way."
CJ McCollum scored 22 points and Lillard had 21 points and nine assists for the Blazers (29-24), who had won seven of their nine previous contests. But McCollum and Lillard combined for only 15-for-41 shooting.
Lillard scored 17 points in the second half and eight in the game's final 1:05, but started the game shooting 1 for 11 and was 3 for 15, including 1 for 8 from 3-point range, heading into the fourth quarter. He finished 6 for 19 and 2 for 9.
The loss squandered a terrific performance by reserve forward Moe Harkless, who collected 19 points — sinking 5 of 5 from 3-point territory — and eight rebounds in 31 minutes. Harkless had scored 11 points in the previous 12 games.
"I'm glad he was ready," Stotts said. "With 'Dame' and CJ having off nights, we needed his points.
With Jusuf Nurkic scoring 10 early points, Portland jumped to a 21-10 lead. Boston started the game 4 for 21 from the field. The Blazers took a 26-19 advantage into the second quarter.
Portland extended its edge to 39-28 early in the second period. The Celtics cut it to 39-36, but the Blazers ended the quarter in a 12-0 run to go into intermission ahead by 16 points.
Harkless scored 14 points to help stake Portland to a 54-38 halftime lead. Lillard had only four points on 1-for-9 shooting, including 1 for 6 from 3-point range.
The Blazers' advantage was 57-42 when Boston went on a 18-4 run to trim the margin to 61-60 midway through the quarter. Portland carried a 73-69 edge into the final period.
The Celtics tied the score at 75-75 early in the fourth quarter. Portland kicked it back up to 85-79, but Tatum's 3-point shot squared it at 85-85 with 3:34 left.
Horford's 3 gave Boston its first lead since the game's first three minutes at 88-85 with 2:50 to go. Jayson Tatum followed with a jumper to make it 90-85 with 1:59 remaining.
McCollum's trey cut it to 90-88 with 1:36 to play. Jaylen Brown followed with a 3 to make it 93-88 with 1:13 to go. Lillard answered with a 3 to get Portland within 93-91 with 1:05 remaining.
Lillard's driving basket tied it at 95-95 with 35 seconds to go. Terry Rozier's 20-footer pushed Boston back in front 97-95 with 13.6 seconds on the clock. Then came Lillard's three-point play, which wasn't quite enough in the end.
NOTES: Portland ends its three-game road trip Monday at Detroit. ... Nurkic finished with 14 points and eight rebounds and fouled out in the fourth quarter. ... Three of Boston's top six scorers were out due to injury — starting point guard Kyrie Irving (quad), starting forward Marcus Morris (hip) and reserve guard Marcus Smart (hand). ... Tatum contributed 17 points and Brown 16 for Boston, which won its fourth straight game.